Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR) moved a step closer towards retaining her W Series title by winning her third race of the 2021 season at the Circuit of the Americas.
The 23-year-old Briton overtook pole-sitter Abbi Pulling (PUMA W Series Team, GBR) at the opening corner and led all the way to the chequered flag to beat Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN) by 1.2 seconds and take the fifth victory of her W Series career. Alice Powell (Racing X, GBR) came from 10th on the grid to take the final podium spot from Abbi on the last lap of the race.
Jamie leads Alice by 10 points in the championship standings going into the final race of the season in Texas tomorrow (Sunday 24 October), when Jamie will start from pole position and Alice will line-up in ninth on the grid. Emma's third consecutive podium finish ensures that she will finish third in the championship.
Abbi came home in fourth to maintain her run of improving in every W Series race she has competed in after finishing eighth on her debut at Silverstone in July and seventh at Zandvoort last month. Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport, NED) finished fifth to move into eighth place in the championship standings – the final qualifying spot for the 2022 W Series season.
Jessica Hawkins (Racing X, GBR) is one point and one place behind Beitske after finishing sixth at COTA. Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, GBR) came next to leapfrog Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing, LIE) – who finished ninth in the race – in the championship. Nerea Martí (W Series Academy Team, ESP) and Miki Koyama (Sirin Racing, JPN) completed the top 10.
Abbi started from pole position for the first time in her career, but couldn't take advantage as Jamie hit the front after the long run uphill to Turn One despite coming under pressure from Emma. The Finn was briefly ahead of Jamie up the inside, but failed to make the move stick at the exit of the corner where she went deep and allowed Belen Garcia (Scuderia W, ESP) to take second place.
Jamie led Belen – who started sixth after receiving a three-place grid penalty for impeding Jessica in qualifying – by more than one second at the end of the first lap, which was a productive one for Alice who made up three places to seventh, before passing Fabienne for sixth with five of the 30 minutes gone.
Emma overtook Belen for second place at Turn 12 and the Spaniard ran wide at the penultimate corner on the same lap to let Abbi through and into the top three after the run to Turn One. Just behind that battle, Alice passed Sarah for fifth at the same corner, and the former went into the top four on the next lap when she overtook Belen at Turn 12.
With a third of the race gone, Abbie Eaton (Ecurie W, GBR) retired from the race after leaving the circuit in the final sector. Jamie led Emma by more than two seconds and Alice was five seconds off the lead and two behind Abbi at that stage.
Belen came under pressure from Sarah, but the Briton couldn't find a way past her team-mate which put her under threat from Beitske. As the time remaining ticked below 10 minutes, Emma reduced Jamie's advantage to 1.6 seconds while Abbi and Alice struggled to make inroads as the top four traded lap times within a tenth of a second of each other.
Sarah overtook Belen at Turn One with eight minutes to go, and Beitske followed Sarah through as Belen ran wide. The Spaniard did the same on the next lap to let Jessica past and, a few corners later, Marta Garcia (PUMA W Series Team, ESP) spun while attempting to overtake her compatriot.
With less than five minutes left on the clock, Emma closed to within one second of Jamie and Abbi set the fastest lap of the race to sit 1.5 seconds behind Emma. Beitske went fifth by passing Sarah on the inside at Turn 12 with two minutes remaining. Alice set the fastest lap of the race to go seven tenths of the second behind Abbi who was reported to the stewards for exceeding track limits, and the rookie ran wide at the end of the penultimate lap allowing Alice to overtake her on the final circuit.
Jamie Chadwick, 23, UK, Veloce Racing, said:
"I'm really happy with that after starting second. Having Alice [Powell] behind me on the grid, I knew I had to capitalise at the start and I managed to do that. I've won and moved ahead in the championship and that was the main objective today, but the hard work starts tomorrow. I can't afford to take any risks, so I was a bit hesitant at the start when I came under pressure from Emma [Kimiläinen] but I held on, built a gap and managed the race from there even though it was tricky with the tyres. Alice is still right there in the title fight which was always going to go down to the wire, but I'm starting from pole position tomorrow and that's great, but I still need to work hard."
Emma Kimiläinen, 32, Finland, Ecurie W, said:
"My start was mega, but I had an issue with the gears and couldn't get out of the first corner – luckily the other girls didn't drive into me. From there I was fighting a lot and made a really good overtake on Belen [Garcia] to get second. I knew I needed to push to get into some clean air and pressurise Jamie [Chadwick]. I got close to her, but I was struggling with grip at the end when Abbi [Pulling] was pushing me hard and there was no time for saving tyres. But still a good race for me and I gave it my all."
Alice Powell, 28, UK, Racing X, said:
"Qualifying and practice were a nightmare for me, but starting so far back gave me the mindset of having nothing to lose. As Daniel Ricciardo says, it was about licking the stamp and sending it, and I had great pace in the race so a big thank you to everyone at Racing X for working so hard to get me sorted and in the right frame of mind. So, a great race and hopefully there's more to come tomorrow. Abbi [Pulling] and Sarah [Moore] were pretty nice to me but I'm gutted to take that podium spot from Abbi at the end. She's got another front row start tomorrow so hopefully she improves again."
Provisional results from the seventh race of the 2021 W Series season are below. For full W Series results and session timings from the Circuit of the Americas visit https://wseries.com/w-hub/w-series-austin-weekend-schedule/.